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Stars aligning for a bike tourism boom in the Mt. Hood area

Posted by on July 3rd, 2013 at 11:08 am

Sandy Ridge loop-5

Riders scope out routes at Sandy Ridge, a popular trail-riding
destination built specifically for mountain biking.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Nobody in Oregon gets more of its tourist dollar from bikes than the Mount Hood region, and people in eastern Multnomah and Clackamas counties are taking notice.

Whatever happens in the controversy about a planned mountain bike park near Timberline Lodge, the area seems to be thinking more and more about biking. Consider a few elements:

— Back in May a splashy Travel Oregon study grabbed the attention of city leaders by finding that 15 percent of travel expenditures in the Mt. Hood/Gorge area are bike-related:

Mt. Hood wins big with bike-related tourism.
(Image by Dean Runyon Associates for Travel Oregon)

— As reported by KATU-TV, the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce has now pulled together $169,000 from Metro, Travel Portland, Gresham and Troutdale for an “assessment of all the trails in the area — where do they stand, where do they have gaps, where do we see the needs, where are the connections?” The idea is to prime the area for even more bike recreation.

— As we wrote this spring, the Oregon Department of Transportation is leading a $650,000 project to fight congestion on U.S. 26 by improving shoulders, trailhead access and other bike amenities that help people get to Mount Hood on two wheels.

— A $2-to-$3-per-ride express bus that’s connected the Sandy Transit Center to Mount Hood for years is preparing to add twice-a-day service to Government Camp, Timberline Lodge and Ski Bowl, starting in October. From May through early October, it’s currently expected, the buses will haul trailers designed to accommodate between four and 10 mountain bikes up to these recreational joints.

In an email, Jae Heidenreich of Clackamas County Tourism and Cultural Affairs called that last development, funded by $460,400 from the U.S. Department of Transportation, “an exciting move in the right direction for folks wanting to get up the mountain year ’round” and mentioned that “numerous parties calling out existing/growing demand” for ways to haul mountain bike equipment up the mountain in all seasons.

I joined my first own bike trip up the Gorge last month as part of Pedalpalooza, and I could swear those views are 20 percent more beautiful when fueled by eggs and toast. It’s exciting to see bike recreation being recognized as a powerful force that can draw visitors to the Portland area’s geographic treasures — without further clogging the roads for people in cars.

Oregon’s strategic focus on bike tourism was started by a dedicated coalition of advocates, business owners, and Travel Oregon staffers back in 2006. Now it looks like years of work is really starting to pay off.

Read more of our bike tourism coverage here.

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PeteME FitzZimmermanTrailLover Recent comment authors
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The growth of the bicycle-driven economy in many regions throughout the state is great news indeed. But the success in places like Hood River simply highlights the utter failure in Portland, particularly on the topic of mountain bike access.

While many types of cycling (multi-day touring, day road riding, mountain biking, etc.) all contribute to those tourism dollars, it’s probably safe to say that relatively few mountain bike dollars are being spent in the Portland area simply because there is virtually nowhere to ride. This, sadly, is despite the fact that the city sits next to an extensive network of highly-prized singletrack trails in Forest Park. They’re off limits to cyclists.

If Portland would join the rest of the world by sharing at least some significant portion of Forest Park trails, then maybe Portland could also share in some of the economic benefits that other communities around the state are already enjoying.

ME Fitz
ME Fitz

Clackamas County isn’t helping attract road bicyclists to Mt Hood. The road that takes you to Sandy Ridge Trailhead, Barlow Trail Rd, is a wonderful road bike route to connect Marmot Rd with Lolo Pass or simply get off Hwy 26 for 5-6 miles. It has wonderful pavement right now, but Clackamas County plans to chip seal it soon. Augh.

I have been trying to rally the troops to contact the county to advocate for this to change. If you ride this route and don’t want to see it chipsealed contact Clackamas County.